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Planning legislation review should be started without delay, says Muir

A review into planning legislation should be started without delay, Alliance Infrastructure spokesperson Andrew Muir MLA has said.

The North Down MLA was speaking after the Assembly’s Infrastructure Committee discussed the terms of the review, which was scheduled to start in 2018 and is expected to conclude by March 2021. Mr Muir said he hoped it would enable more speedy decision-making on planning applications.

“The average period of time taken to determine major ppplications during 2019/20 was over 52 weeks, against a target of 30 weeks. That makes it clear the review should look at ways to speed up the system. This is in addition to statistics I recently obtained which show statutory consultees only replied to 70 per cent of planning application consultation requests within the statutory time limits,” he said.

“I am glad to have secured commitment from the Department for Infrastructure’s Director of Planning to consider the enactment of both primary and subordinate legislation if the review finds a case for it. Changes could be made, including a requirement for applicants to demonstrate how they have altered proposals in light of issues raised during the pre-application process, thereby ending the right of developers to use the process as a mere tick box exercise, and creating the ability for planning authorities to reject poor quality applications at the initial application stage.

“That’s why the review should be started without delay. A quick review without a proper appetite for change would be extremely disappointing and a failure to grasp the opportunity for a range of relatively simple but vital changes, which enable more speedy decision-making on planning applications as we struggle to rebuild our economy, whilst protecting our environment.”